It’s a given that I cruise a lot of motorcycle related media from day to day. I recently noticed on the Motorcyclist Online Facebook page that they had posted “Motorcycle of the Year” (MOTY) awards for various classes. Apparently I hadn’t paid much attention in previous years, I figured MOTY awards would be more like a December thing, especially considering there’s not a whole lot of riding going on for most people that time of year, but hey, with 3 weeks left of summer, the moto-media has crowned the victors; maybe they’re trying to boost sales?
Anyone can be a Monday morning quarterback, especially me, but I still can’t help but scoff at some of the selections these magazines make. I would love to say that I’m scoffing at their selections because they’re ridiculous and argue why they’re wrong, but sadly, it’s more because they’re predictable. It seems to me, that if you list all of the bikes in a given class, then sort them from most to least expensive, odds are that you’ll pick this year’s winner if you select either of the top two. I mean, if it’s more expensive, it has to be better right? For example, Cycle World has crowned the Ducati Multistrada 2015’s best touring motorcycle. Doing some homework to frame this argument, I discovered that the Multi’s base price is $17,695; after which I figured my point was foiled, yet I noticed the fine print, the Multistrada “S” is this year’s winner, how about $19,695 base. I of course, was at a loss to locate those prices on Ducati’s website (I’m not saying they’re not on there, it’s simply that they aren’t trying to help you price compare…), so I had to go to Cycle Trader to get market pricing. To Cycle World’s credit, not everyone would immediately label the Multi as a touring bike. I consider the Multi to be another “Adventure” bike, emphasis on the parenthesis, less on the adventure, as the Multi in stock form has little intention of taking a rider off-road. Which pretty much leaves the bike firmly planted in the “Sport Touring” category in my mind. That being the case, I concede a Gold Wing or an Electra-Glide would also be a contender in the “Touring” Category, but at $20K, Ducati isn’t all far off the mark with regard to price; it’s also the least excessive of those I noticed.
On the other side of the aisle, Motorcyclist Online names the BMW R1200RT this year’s best touring bike (Gasp!). This is typical moto-magazine fodder in my opinion. I don’t discount BMW’s craftsmanship and quality, but there is no denying that the price tag coincides with the reputation. While BMW does publish MSRP on their webpage, you’d be a fool to take them at their word. What I mean is, they list “base MSRP” on the leading page of a given model, but they don’t mention that there are several “not included” items that are installed on the bikes on the show room floor. For the R1200RT, “Base” sticker is $17,705, but you can’t actually buy one for that price… there’s the “standard package” which adds an additional $600 to the price, plus $495 in “destination fees” (I realize that “freight” is negotiable, and every dealer does that), so that’s sticker more like ~$18,950, but I have a feeling the base model didn’t win MOTY… so the “premium package” which includes stereo effects, cruise control, tire pressure monitoring, etc. is an additional $3,200, so without adding any other farkles, we’re talking $21,550 before tax.
On the Adventure side of the market, Cycle World named the KTM 1290 Super Adventure 2015’s best Adventure Bike. While I personally think that’s akin to naming the FJ-09 2015’s best “Adventure” bike (more street, less dirt…); I will at least give credit to KTM’s heritage, if you’re going to take a bike with Street tires onto the dirt, I imagine the KTM will require the least modification. That being said, I had no doubt that the new 1290’s price tag would be pretty heavy. Naturally, KTM took a page out of Ducati’s book, and I was forced to look up the pricing on the local dealership’s website. So starting at $20,499, the 1290 Super Adventure also breaks the twenty grand barrier.
Motorcyclist Online in turn chose the R1200 GS Adventure as their 2015 best adventure bike of the year. I will admit, this kind of surprised me at first, as the 1200 GS (is old news…) has pretty much become the icon of water buffalo adventure bikes (thanks to Ewan and Charlie). So, after pulling down the details from BMW’s website, the new 1200 GSA will set you back $18,340… oh wait, how about $3,555 more in accessories because there is no “standard” package, only premium. So that will be about $21,190 before tax, title, and fees.
Look, I’m not trying to say that these aren’t good motorcycles, moreover I may even concede they are “the best”, but for the price of a pickup truck, they’d better be! I don’t know if it’s because I spent two years in the “sand box” or because I have an engineering degree, but in my mind “best” and “value” is defined by efficiency, “doing more with less”. I can unequivocally say I would love to have each one of these bikes parked in the driveway, while at the same time, feel shameless in lambasting the motorcycle media for telling us that this year’s (or any other year for that matter…) best touring machine is, of course, over 1000 cubic centimeters, and well north of twenty grand. For prices like these, they better damn well be “the best”.
Okay, I’m cheap, I get it, but let’s look at the options here. With regard to “touring”, as stated, I realize that 1200 “ish” sport tourers are directly competing against big bore Harleys, Gold Wings, and truthfully the big “Adventure” bikes (speaking of “more for less”…), but assuming that large displacement motorcycles, loaded with all the bells and whistles, defines “the best” seems like a false economy to me. The Kawasaki Concours, and especially the Yamaha FJR both seem like reasonable alternatives to the German starship. Pretty sure the current record for the Iron Butt Ultimate Coast to Coast Challenge was set on an FJR… how’s that for touring? I have no doubt that the moto-journalists will claim both are long in the tooth, haven’t had a significant redesign in recent years, or make some comment regarding ABS (function, price, or reliability… sigh…). I don’t disagree those models may lack creature comforts standard, but take a look at what you get for what you pay.
In the Adventure department I make a similar claim, moreover what says “Bigger is Better!” louder than a 1290 cc “dirt” bike? If Motorcyclist Online is so infatuated with BMW (they even mentioned that), why not select the 800 GS Adventure? Isn’t an 800 well suited for touring and even two-up riding, while at the same time even more adept for the mud, especially against its mammoth stablemate? My immediate reaction after seeing both of these articles was “what about the KLR?”, props to Motorcyclist Online, they at least gave honorable mention to Kawasaki’s “Old Reliable”.
While all of this is anecdotal based on stats and “opinion” but am I off base here? Should I just embrace the “American way”, assuming I will never have the “best” motorcycle until I pay top dollar for a bike with butt warmers and an in-dash GPS?